Dentistry is a demanding subject and its application process is competitive. As a result, entry criteria are high and selection is stringent. While this can be a good indicator of whether an applicant will make an excellent dentist, it can fail to take into account the barriers which certain groups face. When selection processes are restricting candidates who would make excellent dentists, the processes need to be examined.
Selecting for Excellence project
Dental schools and their wider health faculties each engage in a significant amount of work to widen participation to dentistry. However, there was not historically a great deal of cooperation between universities in how this work was approached. In 2013, the Medical Schools Council launched the Selecting for Excellence project. Its role was to look at selection to medicine across the UK, with a particular focus on widening participation. Its aim was to provide a body of evidence which medical schools can use to ensure that they are selecting candidates who will make excellent doctors – no matter their backgrounds.
The project’s progress was monitored by a group made of representatives from key organisations in the health and higher education sectors. While the report was primarily aimed at medicine, it was recognised that many of its findings were applicable to wider health faculties. Members of the Dental Schools Council and their respective admissions and widening participation teams joined the working groups to assess the implementation of the project and later ensured that many of the outcomes were applied to dentistry.
The Dental Schools Council continues the work of the Selecting for Excellence project by continuing to support dentistry’s involvement in the Medical Schools Council’s Selection Alliance meetings. By participating in these meetings, DSC ensures that good practice is shared and implemented across both specialist areas. This ongoing work will allow dental schools to coordinate approaches to widening participation so that best practice can be adopted at every institution.